On A Tangentally Philosophic Topic

This may be more for sociologists than for philosophers. I was watching the Dancing with the Stars update on the local TV news a few days ago, when they informed us (because it is vital that we know) that former dancing star and “girl next door”, Holly Madison was getting a show in Las Vegas. The show, if I heard correctly, has some toplessness action in it. I guess that’s why it’s important that we know. Anyway, hearing about former playmates made me think about former Playboy Playmates, which made me think of Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner. Especially so, since Ms. Madison was one of his girlfriends as depicted on the E! reality show The Girls Next Door. I thought to myself that, whenever I listen to the local rock stations (I’m amazed that I live in an area where there rock stations are still around!) and the topic of Hugh Hefner comes up, there’s nothing but all hoots and hollers and ‘boy don’t we envy that guy’ going on. Hugh Hefner is praised because he, despite needing to use the little blue pill, is forever young. Instead of calling the codger a dirty old man, we congradulate him on his scoring 3 hot chicks. We all want to drink from the well of eternal youth, and celebrate those who have beaten the clock and stayed forever young. Or at least forever young acting. Hugh Hefner behaves like a man more than half his age. This is supposed to be a good thing. I don’t think that I takes a philosophy degree (at least I hope that it doesn’t) to realize that there is something so fundamentally wrong with praising old people who act young. We live in a culture where no one ever gets old. At least if you get old, God forbid that you actually look your age. We praise the allmighty Botox, and we celebrate “cougars” and watch women like Janice Dickinson act and compete with women half her age. And we see nothing wrong with any of it. We say that 40 is the new 20, and that you’re only as old as you feel. I guess at some point 80 will be the new 17. We keep trying to find the knack for living indefinitely and sustaining our youth to the point where we ultimately have to give it up ( usually that happens somewhere near death). We want to find the place where, as Wilfred Brimley said in Cocoon, we’ll never get sick, we’ll never get old, and we’ll never die. Life is one neverending nip/tuck. This is so not good. I was looking at a picture of Walt Wittman recently (no really, I was). Here in the picture of old Walt was a guy with a great burly gray beard. He looked like an older man — an older man who would scare the woohoo out of me if he was sitting at the busstop that I needed to stop at to catch the bus. But the point is, he looked like a pretty old guy. I noticed that many of our great thinkers, writers and artists sported that same look. They were older and they looked it. But more importantly, they were regarded, not for how hot they looked, but for what they had to say. Their words and thoughts were what we turned to for WISDOM. And that’s just the thing, isn’t it? In a world where no one ever gets old, who do we turn to for wisdom? I remember when Leonardo DiCapprio was the hot poo. even though he was over 21, he looked like he was about 13. I remember people saying that he may be agood actor, but no one would ever believe him playing the president or any role of substance. He didn’t look old enough, they said. The fact is, is that he didn’t look like he had lived enough years to gain the wisdom that is required for a president or the Pope. We often think that someone is wise if they look the part. You looked the part by looking old. But we don’t look old anymore. Once upon a time, being wise was associated with living a life long enough to acquire information and havng the ability to apply the information that you learned in a manner that was conducive to living a pleasant, dare I say good, life. We used to be impressed with people who read many books (because we often find information in books), and who didn’t spend time caught up in material things. We used to value sitting quietly and thinking. People who think used to be called wise. It’s a little upsetting when you hear someone praising a child who consistently does poorly on state standardized tests as smart because he knows how to upload a video on YouTube. As a matter of fact, Chris Hedges said that nearly 42% of college graduates never read another book after graduating from college. I understand that standardized tests are for shit, but my point is, is that we think a child is smart if they can do something techinical, and neglect the fact that the little knuckledragger may barely know how to read. All that book reading is wasted time, we say. It’s stuff that old people do. In fact, I was listening to a radio show on the topic of Kindle (an electronic books service offered by Google), and someone said just that — old people read books. Meaning that books are passe, relics of an ancient time, irrelevant (One could infer that those who read such relics are also irrelevant). The thing is, is that reading a blog or someone’s MySpace page isn’t reading. And there is no great wisdom to be culled from the world of reality television. And if people aren’t reading, then where are our thinkers going to come from? Who will lead in a world where youth is beyond praised and doing something like reading books is made out to be something that “old people” do? All things old are to be avoided. I mean, I’ve noticed lately this national obsession with the “cougar”. Cougars have replaced MILFs as the femme dejour. They’re not new by far. Mrs. Robinson was a cougar. In the 80s, Cher was a cougar (for a brief time her beau, whose name slips my mind, was semi-famous). And now, we see the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Demi Moore. It’s cool to date guys that sre the same age as your kids. And, if you do it looking like your kids’ slightly older sister, even better. It’s ok to date younger men — but the idea now seems to be that you’re not dating a younger, albeit mature man (he may act older than his age) — but that you’re the one who is 47 and acts and looks like she’s 22! We congradulate women who drop all their baby weight as quickly as possible. We actually take it a step further and congradulate women who don’t look like they’re pregnant! We pressure our famous people to drop the excess poinds after giving birth so they can get back to being sexy. But there’s a connection: looking like you don’t have kids often leads people to act as if they don’t have kids. There used to be something of a badge of honor to look like somebody’s mother or father. Looking like the older members of the family was connected to the idea that you were mature and dare I say, wise. There was a time when parents were expected to pass the knowledge they gained through life experences to their children. How can anyone pass along life lessons learned from life’s experiences if one’s parent is experiencing those life experiences right alongs side of their childern? More and more we hear of parents cruising bars with their kids or dating their kids’ friends ( I need not mention the Hogan family here). These parents neither act or look mature. Why would someone look mature (that is look old) if looking like someone’s mom is a sure fire way to not get dates with younger men. Looking mature used to be associated with words like “distinguished” and “erudite”. We’d assume that the older gentleman with the graying beard and glasses was the wisest guy in the room (we may have been wrong, but the idea is that we didn’t hold it against him that he looked older than everyone else). No offense, but when I look at Brad Pitt, the word “erudite” doesn’t spring to mind ( I say Brad Pitt, not just to pick on the guy, but because there has been some speculation that he has had some “work” done recently). People who looked like the elders were assumed to play the part, giving us wisdom and the knowledge to lead good, productive lives. Not only does no one want to look the part of the elders these days, no one really wants to play the part, either. The elders tell us when we need to shape up and act the way that w should — they shouldn’t tell us how cool it is to bang a trio of hot chicks, or tell us that it’s ok to act like we’re 21 when we’re about three decades past being that age. We are a culture run by children. And children do not know how to properly behave — they are impulsive, and notoriously unable to guide themselves through life without direction. Children are easily swayed and influenced. You can change a child’s mind easily because they do not think critically. My fear is that, if no one is willing to be the elders, to be the guiding force in society, then we are a culture that is lost. We are a nation of lost boys in desperate need of a Wendy to be the big sister to tell us when and how we should behave. Until then, I guess I’ll … oh wait, TMZ is on.

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